PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Jordan Spieth is doing just about everything right this year, and it shows.
He is No. 5 in the Ryder Cup standings and No. 8 in the FedEx Cup. He was runner-up at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Masters, and he at least put himself in the mix on the weekends at Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines and Riviera. He reached the quarterfinals in his debut at the Match Play Championship.
And his star power keeps rising, mainly as the 20-year-old Texan who seems to have a chance to be the “youngest” to do everything.
What gnaws at him is Spieth is missing one thing.
“Plenty of chances to win, and it’s eating at me a little that I haven’t taken advantage of one of them yet,” Spieth said Wednesday on the eve of The Players Championship. “But I keep putting myself in position, and I believe that it will go my way here soon.”
Get in line.
Winning hasn’t been easy for anyone this year, with only Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker winning more than once. Only three players from the top 10 in the world ranking – Watson, Matt Kuchar and Jason Day – have won this year.
The Players Championship has never really favored anyone. That might be what defines this tournament, along with the island green for the par-3 17th hole, and the fact the purse ($10 million) is the richest in golf.
No one has ever won back-to-back at the TPC Sawgrass, and that won’t change this year because Tiger Woods is still recovering from back surgery.
Woods last played on March 9 at Doral, and since then, seven of the nine winners on the PGA Tour have been No. 90 or lower in the world ranking.
What adds to the interest at Sawgrass this week is the battle for No. 1. Four players – Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Watson and Kuchar – have a chance to replace Woods atop the world ranking.
None has ever been No. 1. Kuchar is the long shot, needing a win and for Scott to finish well down the leaderboard. Watson would need to finish alone in second, so he considers himself a long shot, too.
“My best finish is 37th,” Watson said. “So unless 37th moves me to No. 1, we probably don’t need to worry about that.”
Kuchar didn’t know he could get to No. 1 until it was mentioned to him Wednesday. He thought it was cool.
It’s old hat for Scott, who has had a mathematical chance to get to No. 1 for more than two months. His best chance was at Bay Hill, where he couldn’t hold a seven-shot lead on the weekend. He still cares, but it’s not at the forefront of his mind.
“Look, I’m here to win golf tournaments,” Scott said. “That’s been the goal and from that you can get to No. 1 in the world if you win often enough.”
Spieth would love to get to No. 1 at some point in his career, even though his career is only 17 months old.
Remember, at this time a year ago, Spieth had just taken special temporary membership on the tour and was getting into tournaments on sponsor invitations.
He doesn’t look at how far he has come in such a short time. He looks at how far he has to go.
“I’m just kind of sticking my feet in the water,” said Spieth, the John Deere Classic winner last summer. “The Masters was a humbling experience, not being able to pull that off. So many of these guys have won major championships, so I know what they felt and how they overcame it and succeeded.
“I only hope to do that and get myself in positions to do that. I’ve set goals – I’ve set goals from when I was 15 years old. I still have yet to accomplish a couple of those and those could take two years and those could take 20 years.
“And in order for it to actually happen, I’ve got to keep my head down and keep moving forward and work as hard or harder than anybody.”
For all he’s done, Spieth has this much going against him: Only twice has someone won The Players Championship the first time competing on the Stadium Course. Hal Sutton won in 1983 and Craig Perks did it in 2002.